As any fan of the Food Network knows, a few scrapes from an orange peel adds zest to a dish. San Francisco Bay Area indie-popsters the Orange Peels, according to master chef Allen Clapp, reinvented themselves by inviting more cooks into the kitchen. The result, Sun Moon (Minty Fresh), is a fully collaborative and very tasty effort. Last summer, Peels bassist (and Clapp’s wife) Jill Pries asked the other two band members—guitarist John Moremen and drummer Gabriel Coan—to drop by their Sunnyvale, Calif., home/studio. “It didn’t mean I was happy about it,” says Clapp, grown used to demoing the band’s material before presenting it to the others. “I told her I didn’t have any songs ready.” Clapp will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Orange Peels feature.
Clapp: When most people think of California wines, they think of Napa and Sonoma. You wouldn’t be wrong to think of those growing regions and their palatial, Disneyland-esque tasting rooms, but south and west of those famous locations, you’ll find a mountainous region that arguably produces the best cabernets, zinfandels and pinot noirs on planet Earth.
Just west of where we live are the mountains that frame our sunsets. They’re visible from pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area, and they stand between the San Francisco Bay and the mighty Pacific Ocean. They’re called the Santa Cruz Mountains, and they’re where we spend a good deal of time hiking, traveling and scouting out new wineries.
Here you’ll find hippie oenophiles, rustic tasting rooms and mind-blowing, low-tech wines. Perhaps the best known is the legendary Ridge Vineyards, sitting atop Monte Bello Ridge not far from Skyline Boulevard. Ridge winemaker Paul Draper (no relation to Don) is perhaps America’s most treasured wine personality. Remaining proudly free of the kind of chemistry that produces short-lived, but blockbuster reds, Ridge’s approach is one of nurturing land and vine, and remaining as hands-off as possible.
The result is that its Monte Bello blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is one of the world’s best wines, period. The ’71 Ridge Monte Bello did well in the famous Judgment of Paris blind tasting in 1976. The tasting itself and the story of the coming of age of California wines is told in the 2008 film Bottle Shock, starring Alan Rickman and Chris Pine.
In a 30th anniversary revisiting of the wines that were judged at the original Judgment of Paris, the ’71 Ridge took the cake. It literally had aged better over 30 years than any of the top wines in the world, and took first place in its category.
Next time you’re out west, skip the Napa castle tour and head for the Santa Cruz Mountains. You will not be sorry.
Video after the jump.